Trick-or-treat candy wisdom

  • From left, a homemade Twix-like candy bar, a coconut chocolate bar, a peppermint patty owl, and a peanut butter cup on the bottom. Use cookie cutters for other creative holiday-themed shapes. (Francine Orr/Los Angeles Times/TNS) Francine Orr

Washington Post
Friday, October 27, 2017

Halloween has always been my favorite holiday. As a child, I looked forward all year to dressing up and going trick-or-treating. I still love putting on costumes and carving pumpkins.

But as much as I love the holiday, it also has its share of detractors. There is plenty of debate about whether parents should limit their kids’ access to Halloween activities and candy.

As a dietitian, I tell parents to approach Halloween as a learning opportunity. Here are my suggestions on how to let your children enjoy the treats of Halloween without going overboard.

Don’t eat candy by itself

According to dietitian and family therapist Ellyn Satter, author of Child of Mine: Feeding With Love and Good Sense, it’s fine to let kids have a few pieces of candy a day, either as dessert after a meal or as a sit-down snack. You can include a piece of candy in their lunch if they want.

This encourages mindful eating rather than distracted eating in front of the TV or on the run. Eating small amounts of treats should help kids learn to enjoy them more so they’re satisfied. Having these treats after a meal or snack means there will be less room for candy, plus the protein and fat will help slow down the sugar rush.

Keep out of sight

Out of sight, out of mind. This holds true for kids and adults when it comes to food. Don’t let kids keep candy or other food in their rooms. Food stays in the kitchen, and the less healthy options should be hidden in a cupboard, not out on the counter for all to see (and grab mindlessly).

Pick favorites

Have your kids pick out the candy they love and give away the rest. Learning to choose treats you really enjoy is an important part of healthy eating. You want your kids to savor and enjoy the treats they love rather than go for volume and not really take pleasure in what they’re eating.

Focus on health not weight

When you talk about food with your kids, focus on making healthy choices rather than controlling weight. Research suggests that commenting on children’s weight can increase the likelihood of unhealthy dieting as well as binge eating and other eating disorders.